April 1, 2011
Nurse Who Fought To Save N.J. Hospital Is an
AFT Everyday Hero
LAS VEGAS—When Meadowlands Hospital confronted severe financial difficulties a few years ago, Joanne Dudsak stepped up and worked tirelessly to help find solutions that would keep the facility open, serving its patients and the wider community.
For her role in preserving the hospital and its services to the community, Dudsak today received an American Federation of Teachers Everyday Hero award.
Dudsak, who is a nurse at Meadowlands and heads the hospital’s health professionals local, organized support among community residents and local government officials to keep the hospital open. “Our primary goal has always been to protect our hospital, our patients and the caregivers,” Dudsak said.
After a long battle, Meadowlands was taken over by a for-profit company. As part of the transition that followed, Dudsak negotiated a new contract that maintained the quality of patient care and working conditions in the hospital, and saved jobs for nurses and allied staff. “We wanted to make sure that when the ownership changed, the same dedicated staff would be by our patients’ bedsides,” Dudsak said.
This is the second year of the AFT Everyday Hero awards, which are given to AFT members who go above and beyond the call of duty and make a difference every day in their workplaces or communities. This year, there were more than 350 nominees, and five semifinalists were selected for each AFT division (Teachers, Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel, Public Employees, Higher Education, Healthcare and Retirees). More than 5,000 people voted online to select the winners.
This year, the Everyday Heroes are being honored at their divisional conferences. Dudsak, president of the Meadowlands Health Professionals and Allied Employees, Local 5147, received her award at the AFT Healthcare/Public Employees Joint Conference in Las Vegas. The other AFT Healthcare semifinalists were Karen Connelly, a school nurse at Hartford Magnet Middle School (Hartford Federation of Teachers, Local 1018 AB); Cynthia McDaniel, a home health nurse in New York City (Federation of Nurses/UFT, Local 2); Kevin Morgan, a nurse at Danbury (Conn.) Hospital (Danbury Nurses Union, Unit 47, Local 5047); and Kathy Schmidt, a registered nurse at Sunnyside Medical Center, Clackamas, Ore. (Oregon Federation of Nurses, Local 5017).
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.